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Monday, April 14, 2008

Vacation Day 7: Prague

Click here for photos from Day 7.

We woke up in our fancy Boutique Hotel Josef, enjoyed the view a bit and went down to breakfast. The Hotel Josef had the best breakfast of all the hotels through our European trip. Not only did it have the largest variety of foods, but it also had them well separated, so for instance, Beth, who can't eat kiwi or other tropical fruits, was able to eat all the other fruits. (Every other hotel served most fruit together, with kiwi.)

Ignoring the original plan to stay away from Jewish monuments until Auschwitz, we walked out toward the Jewish Center, and purchased tickets for the entire Jewish Museum, a series of synagogues turned in to exhibits. But first, we walked in to an active synagogue with connected kosher restaurant and looked around. Beth enjoyed herself but I sort of froze, due mostly to my lack of reasoanble skill in Czech, Yiddish and Hebrew. I was afraid that anything I said would portray me as a disrespectful American. We left that synagogue quickly and went on the museum tour, starting with a sad Holocaust memorial and exhibit adjacent to a cemetery that was almost as jumbled as these European city streets seem to be. Once again, Beth and I agreed to visit no more Jewish museums until Auschwitz, after this one.

That said, the Museum portion of the exhibit was great. There was a large variety of information about Jewish history in Prague including pieces of religious and secular history, as well as details of the pre- and post- Holocaust era. It was clear that Jews in Prague are enjoying a rare period: only the last 20 years (post-Communism) have Jews in Prague been able to express themselves with this much freedom and openness. Anti-semitism isn't dead in Prague, but it may be the best time in history to be a Prague Jew.

After the museum we headed for lunch and ate at an Italian restaurant. The food was spectacular. As we found out during the trip, Italian food was a good typical fallback as both familiar and a change from the typical heavy meat dishes. Prague's Italian food was the best.

We next went to the St. Nicholas Church in the main square for an organ concert with operatic accompaniment. Something was odd about the performance. The brochure didn't have a bona fide date on it. There was another brochure for a performance the next night. It was my suspicion that they had an endless rotation of organ performances, day after day (except probably Sunday.) The show lasted one hour and was very good, ending with Ave Maria. Surprisingly, there weren't too many visitors, but that worked to our benefit since the benches were heated, and we took up more room. Beth found out the next day that the singer who accompanied the organ player performed two hours later at another church, also concluding with Ave Maria. This sufficiently confirmed my suspicions about the regular nature of the performances.

We returned to the hotel where we showered and dressed for dinner. The hotel made us a reservation at a restaurant. We wanted something inexpensive, but the concierge sent us someplace where they admitted it was not cheap, just not very expensive. I couldn't help but feel the hotel had an advanced arrangement with the restaurant. That said, the concierge got us one of the best seats in the restaurant, and the food was very good. I had salad and a plain pasta. Beth had a wonderful tomato soup with basil oil and a veal with potatoes. Her dish was delicious but she could not finish it. I insisted we take it back to our room, even though there was probably no opportunity to eat it. (It turned out to be a perfect lunch for the next day, so Beth in the end was happy with the choice.)

I'd like to point out here that the way the concierge seemed to operate in what did not seem like our interest, along with the machine-like nature of the organ performances left me with a bad taste of Prague: this was the tourist sector, but people should do a better job hiding the tourist machine.

This is disappointing, because otherwise, Prague is a beautiful city, and clearly has lots of fun things to offer for the visitor.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

Ahh Prague, such memories. I hope you got a chance to talk up to the Hrad at night.